When considering international adoption, there are many countries from which to choose. The Republic of Haiti, located on the Western side of the Caribbean Island of Hispaniola, is a popular sending country with roughly 5,000 adoptions to the United States from 1999-2017. Haiti, which shares a border with the Dominican Republic, is ranked as one of the poorest countries in the Western Hemisphere, and many children are available for adoption due to poverty and natural disasters.
In order to understand what adoption in Haiti is like, it is important to get an overview of the whole process. The Republic of Haiti is a Hague Convention country, and as such the nation follows strict guidelines with regards to who is eligible for adoption and how intercounty adoptions may take place.
Who Is Eligible to Adopt?
Prospective adoptive parents must be at least 30 years old, married more than five years, and have at least 14 years of age between them and the prospective adoptive child. Single women are encouraged to adopt, but they must be at least 35 years old. No prospective adoptive parents may be over the age of 50 at the time of their dossier submission to the Institut du Bien-Être Social et de Recherches (IBESR), which is Haiti’s Central Adoption Authority. Same-sex couples are forbidden from adopting, regardless of marital status.
Prospective families must prove employment and be financially stable. If there is already a child in the home (adopted or biological) and the child is over the age of 8, they must submit an essay expressing their opinion about adopting from Haiti. No convicted felons or any persons whose parental rights were previously terminated are allowed to adopt.
Who Is Eligible to Be Adopted?
In Haiti, in order for a child to be eligible for intercountry adoption, several steps must be taken. First, a Tribunal of First Instance must declare the child has been abandoned. The child is then moved to an orphanage where he or she must reside for at least six months before the next step is taken. Once six months have passed, Haiti’s Central Adoption Authority, IBESR, conducts a six-week search for the child’s biological and/or extended family. If no family is found, IBESR proposes the child be considered for adoption, and a local mayor consents to a plenary adoption through which the child officially becomes a ward of the state.
The reason for this extensive process is that many children residing in orphanages in Haiti are not actually orphans. Families may place their children in orphanages due to circumstances or economic hardships with every intention the child will rejoin their family one day. In fact in 2013, Haiti passed a law stating that economic hardship will not be considered sufficient grounds for a child to be found eligible for adoption.
Typically, children available for intercountry adoption are between the ages of 2-9 at placement. Sibling groups are common, and under Haitian law, siblings must be kept together. As such IBESR defines “special need adoptions” as children with medical needs, physical or mental disabilities, children over the age of 6, and sibling groups.
What Is the Process Like?
Like all intercountry adoptions, first prospective adoptive parents will begin with a home study conducted by an accredited adoption service provider (ASP). Next, they will apply to USCIS to be found suitable to adopt, after which they will begin the great paperwork chase to submit their dossier to IBESR. This process can take roughly six to eight months. Following dossier submission and acceptance, families are eligible to receive a referral. The referral process can take anywhere from six months to two years. Once a referral is received, families have 15 days to review the file and decide if they want to accept or refuse. Should they choose to accept, the ASP will notify IBESR, and families will take the first of two trips to Haiti.
Upon arrival in Haiti, prospective adoptive parents will spend 15 days bonding with their child in the child’s department (state). During this time, families will appear before a judge to consent to proceeding with the adoption and fill out the necessary paperwork at the U.S. Embassy. This step takes approximately two weeks after which families will return home. In the following 6-8 months, IBESR grants the Authorization of Adoption, presents the case to the Court, receives an Acte d’Adoption (Adoption Act) at which time the adoption is finalized. Upon finalization, families will be notified by their ASP and may then travel to bring their new child home. Once the new child arrives in the United States, he or she will automatically become a U.S. citizen. The cost to adopt, including travel, is roughly $30-$45,000.
The whole process, from home study to travel to bring your child home is roughly 24-36 months. It is important to note, however, that strikes within the judicial system are common, which can delay the finalization of adoptions. For up-to-date information, visit the U.S. Department of State’s Intercountry News and Notices page.
Like most intercountry adoptions, post-placement reports are required by the Republic of Haiti. In addition to any state requirements, you will need to report on the child’s well-being six months after returning home and then once a year for the next seven years. Interested in adopting from Haiti a second time? You cannot begin the process to adopt again until at least two years have passed since your previous adoption was finalized in Haitian court.
Have you adopted from Haiti? What was your experience like? Any tips for how best to navigate the process?